C. ellioti is abundantly distributed throughout the mid-elevation montane regions, humid scrub savannahs, and cultivated regions of central and eastern Africa. C. ellioti is a small chameleon with females reaching a total length of 9 inches (SVL 4-5 inches). Males are slightly smaller and typically exhibit brighter coloration but are most reliably identified on the basis of a prominent hemipenal bulge. C. ellioti lacks many of the specialized morphological characteristics of other chameleons and for this reason has been described as being prototypical of true chameleons (Necas, 1999). The flattened head lacks occipital lobes but small, elevated parietal crests are present and covered by enlarged, granular scales. Low crests are present in the gular, abdominal and vertebral surfaces. Because of the wide range of habitats and many subpopulations of this species, the coloration of C. ellioti is quite variable. The basic coloration includes gray, brown, blue, black and green but at different times and in different populations the coloration (especially of males) may include bright markings similar to those of C. lateralis. A dark gular spot or slash is often present and a light lateral stripe is often present.
C. ellioti requires well lighted and ventilated individual screen cages. Temperatures should not exceed 85F during the day and a drop to 60F at night is highly desirable. Humidity should be maintained at a minimum of 80%. While they cannot tolerate excessive heat, C. ellioti (particularly gravid females) enjoy basking in the sun. Water can be provided by simulating warm rainfall and/or by drip system. They have hearty appetites and enthusiastically consume most appropriately sized insect prey. This species is prone to mouth and sinus infections so great care should be taken in watching for symptoms. Despite their small size they are highly aggressive toward conspecifics and individual housing is a necessity. Long term success in maintaining this species has yet to be achieved. For this reason, C. ellioti should be kept only by "expert" keepers.
Females, depending on size and maturity, bear 2 - 18 live young. Gestation is approximately 90 - 160 days and females may give birth up to 4 times a year. Females may be receptive 14 days after giving birth and are capable of retaining sperm. Copulation is performed with little fuss or aggression. Babies are a little over 1" long at birth and are extremely fragile. Drosophila melanogaster and two day old pinhead crickets are appropriate sized insect prey, with some hatchlings eating springtails. Hatchlings should be misted with a very fine, warm mist; care should be taken to avoid eye damage and aspiration of water. Maturity is reached in 6 - 9 months.
Contributed by Susan James
Klaver, C. & W. Boehme. 1997. Chamaeleonidae. Das Tierreich, 112: i-xiv' 1 - 85. Verlag Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin, New York.
Martin, J., 1992. Masters of Disguise: A Natural History of Chameleons. Facts On File, Inc., New York, NY.
Necas, P. 1999. Chameleons: Nature's Hidden Jewels. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, FL.
Spawls, S., Howell, K., Drewes, R., and Ashe, J. 2002. A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa. Academic Press, New York.